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Know The Enemy: Sporting KC

Everything you need to about Sporting KC before the match this weekend.

MLS: Sporting KC at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what Cody Bradley of The Blue Testament had to say about Sporting Kansas City in response to our three questions.

Q: KC is 0-3-3 in their last 6 MLS matches after finishing 1st in the West last year, is this all down to injuries, or is there a further issue with the style of play and individual performances?

A: The style of play and individual performances have not been good. They’ve not shown off the possession based, beautiful movement play that had Toluca fans ole’ing their own team. But it’s very difficult to avoid blaming that on the downright ridiculous list of injuries. When you lose your captain & anchor of the backline (Besler), when you lose your engine (Espinoza), and when you lose your rock solid holding midfielder that had missed just one game in the last 2+ seasons (Ilie), those issues are going to arise. There was a time not long ago, before the injuries, when SKC was doing well in the Champions League and they appeared to be the toast of the league and ready to win multiple trophies.

It’s definitely been rough. These fans are simply not used to this. SKC win and they do it every year so there is quite a bit of anger and frustration right now. However, I think the last match vs DC looked better and it took a fantastic goal to beat them. But things will improve as injuries subside and I do believe they’ll make the playoffs for the ninth straight year.

Q: Children’s Mercy Park has been a house of horrors for visiting teams in recent years...what makes it such a tough place for away teams to secure a result?

A: I believe part of it is Vermes pounding the mentality into the heads of his players. Winning at home is very important to him and part of his philosophy is playing an attractive game for the fans.

But of course the stadium itself, and the fans inside it, create an energy that the guys feed off. The stadium is designed to keep in the sound with the roof at the lowest possible heights. The fans are right on top of you. And they’re loud. From the moment players leave the dressing room, the teams walk through a crowd of fans before entering the field. Honestly this has just been a thing for so long now that I think the players have a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy with winning in front of The Blue Hell. They believe they can beat anyone in the league and when they’ve got the fans behind them it must feel like they’ve got an edge before the first kick.

Q: Erik Hurtado made 105 appearances for the Whitecaps before moving on to SKC in the off-season. How has he looked in limited minutes in Champions League and will he (if healthy) find regular minutes in MLS this season?

A: I really enjoyed seeing him come off the bench and I was quite excited for him to be the backup for Nemeth. He’s got a different style that will help throw a team off balance upon his insertion into a match. Hurtado is perhaps more direct than Nemeth. That low center of gravity he has allows him to be a bit quicker and he is good at using his strength. Where Nemeth may look to create for a teammate (something he is quite good at) Hurtado may turn and a rip a shot.

I do expect him to see quite a bit of time on the field this year. Unfortunately he went down right when SKC really needed him, but he’s definitely #2 in the depth chart at striker when he returns. I think Vermes will use him as a change of pace off the bench and he is likely to see 90 minutes when the US Open Cup rolls around.